I can’t breathe.
That’s what Eric Garner said over and over again, as the NYPD officer held him in an outlawed choke hold, pressing his knee into his back, eventually leading to his death.
I can’t breathe.
I can’t breathe. I may not be in a physical choke hold, but this- these cases of police misconduct and the killing of unarmed people of color is choking the life out of me, out of my people, out of our communities, out of our children.
I can’t breathe because I am (we are) in this abusive relationship that forces me (us) to be afraid of those who are in place to protect me (us), and I (we) see no way of escape. There are no shelters where I (we) can escape for my (our) protection. I am (we are) searching for refuge, for equal footing, for right standing and it doesn’t appear to be available.
I can’t breathe because I (we) spend all of this energy trying to be the “good” or “safe” black person, even though I (we) know that while I (we) can change my (our) name, neighborhood, job, clothes, education level, friends, behavior…I (we) CANNOT change the very thing that makes other people feel afraid or threatened: my (our) skin color.
I can’t breathe because I am (we are) exhausted by the constant stream of microaggressions I (we) face, of having to deal with “good decisions” that have racist implications, of having to decide if I (we) should speak up because of knowing (expecting) the response to be that I am (we are) “playing the race card” or “being too sensitive”.
If I have to “play the race card” or “be too sensitive” because it forces you to be more careful, more thoughtful, more intentional in your interactions and decisions regarding people like me- so be it.
I will not continue to be uncomfortable so that you can maintain your comfort. No. It’s time for us to be uncomfortable together.
Discomfort produces action. Appropriate action produces change.
What is appropriate action? I challenge our communities, ESPECIALLY our communities of faith to address these issues, then act. Hear the stories of hurt, of anger, of fear- and then do the work that helps to change hearts. Share the gospel. Love like Jesus. While I hear and understand the cries for justice, I know that the true need is Jesus. True acceptance of Jesus compels our hearts and our minds to change.
My prayer in this situation is best encompassed in the lyrics of “Build Your Kingdom Here” by Rend Collective Experiment:
“We are Your church.
We pray revive this earth. Build Your kingdom here.
Let the darkness fear.
Show Your mighty hand.
Heal our streets and land.
Set Your church on fire.
Win this nation back.
Change the atmosphere.
Build Your kingdom here.
We pray. Unleash Your kingdom’s power
reaching the near and far.
No force of Hell can stop
Your beauty changing hearts.
You made us for much more than this!
Awake the kingdom seed in us!
Fill us with the strength and love of Christ. We are Your church.
We are the hope on earth.”